With a single shot from a pistol small enough to conceal in his hand, John Wilkes Booth catapulted into history on the night of April 14, 1865, just as he hoped. But his murder of President Abraham Lincoln - one of the most familiar events in American history - brought Booth infamy, not the acclaim he sought. Booth was remarkably different from other presidential assassins. Admired as an actor well before the tragedy at Ford's Theatre, the handsome and likeable twenty six year old was billed as "the youngest star in the world." Lincoln was among the thousands who applauded his performances. Wealth, fame, and popularity came to Booth, but they meant little compared to the turbulent actor's passion to help the South win its independence. When the war went badly for the Confederacy, he abandoned acting and plotted to abduct Lincoln and take him south as a prisoner. Booth stalked Lincoln relentlessly during the last winter of the war, only to fail time and again to capture him. As the Confederacy collapsed in April, 1865, Booth decided that the only way he could revive the South and punish the North for the war would be to murder Lincoln - whatever the cost to himself or others.
How could someone so gifted and admired-someone with so much to lose-commit a crime that stunned and infuriated the nation? The first biography of Booth ever written, Fortune's Fool answers that question. Its cradle-to-grave portrait of one of America's most remarkable personalities sets it apart from other books on the Lincoln assassination. The result of a quarter-century of research into government archives, historical libraries, and family records, it brings to life the exceptionally talented and troubling individual who committed the most consequential murder in American history.